Stem cell therapy using iron and magnets!


Surgeons from Hiroshima University Hospital, Japan, recently announced that they will be able to grow a variety of stem cells injected into the body with the help of iron. Yes, iron!

The main challenge with stem cell therapy is that we do not know whether all the stem cells injected into a particular area actually reaches its target area or migrates elsewhere in the body. Unspecified migration is quite dangerous as we have no idea what these cells would do in the human body. Hence, targeted stem cell therapy is the need of the hour and Japanese scientists seem to have found an answer to it.

Picture courtesy:
Picture courtesy:

Dr. Mitsuo Ochi and a team of Japanese surgeons from the hospital, injected iron powder–containing stem cells into the knee of a 18-year-old high school girl. They extracted mesenchymal stem cells from the bone marrow of the patient and cultivated them with iron powder. These iron powder-containing stem cells were then concentrated using a magnet around the damaged cartilage.

This technique is a first-of-its-kind in the world. The main advantage of this surgery was that it was endoscopic. This meant it was least invasive compared to the conventional treatment which needs two surgeries to repair the damaged cartilage. The team injected the stem cells into the patient’s right knee joint and used the magnet to concentrate them at a point where cartilage has been lost. These cells are expected to develop into cartilage.

It will take at least a year to determine the effectiveness of the regenerative surgery on the patient, although previous animal tests have been successful, the team said. The team plans to conduct further operations to reaffirm the regenerative surgery’s safety in clinical research.

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Scientist-entrepreneur-manager-journalist: -Co-founder, Author; Former Assistant Editor and Director, Biotechin.Asia, Biotech Media Pte. Ltd.; -Founder & CEO, SciGlo (; -Programme Management Officer, SBIC, A*STAR (former Research Fellow). --Sandhya graduated from University of Madras, India (B.Sc Microbiology and M.Sc Biotechnology) and received her Ph.D from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She worked on oxidative stress in skin, skeletal, adipose tissue and cardiac muscle for a decade from 2006-2016. She is currently working as a Programme Management Officer handling projects and grants at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Earlier to this she was a Research Fellow in the Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at SBIC. Sandhya was also the Vice President and Publicity Chair of A*PECSS (A*STAR Post Doc Society) (2014-2016). Recently she founded a platform for scientists - SciGlo ( and is a startup mentor at Vertical VC (Finland). She is an ardent lover of science and enjoys globe trotting and good vegetarian food.